Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Days of Empire - Mansouriya Palace, Aleppo

Aishti magazine June/July

In the bygone era of the grand tour, when early 20th-century Europeans traveled luxuriously around the Mediterranean region marvelling at its wonders, there was one hotel in Aleppo where the discerning tourist would surely stay: Le Baron. One hundred years on Le Baron is scraping by on its faded glory while the well-heeled can now be found wandering down a narrow alleyway in the old city for a stay at the Mansouriya Palace.
Opened in 2002, after seven years of work overseen by two European interior designers, the Mansouriya has become the best boutique hotel in Syria, if not the region, gaining in popularity solely by word of mouth.
An unassuming door opens on the sun drenched courtyard of a 16th century house that has been painstakingly restored with the added addition of a pool, not big enough for laps, but deep enough for a refreshing dip.
Dotted around the courtyard are the hotel’s nine rooms, each themed to reflect Aleppo’s long, eventful history and catered to by some 20 staff.
Recent visitors have include the likes of Queen Sophia of Spain, who stayed in the Greco-Roman room, with its Roman-style fresco, wooden ceiling and bathroom naturally lit in purple hues from a domed cupola.

The Greco-Roman Room

In fact, each suite has a unique bathroom with a carved-in-place bathtub of solid marble. In the Bedouin room, decked out to resemble a tent with carpets and bamboo panelling, replica pillars from Palmyra hold up the fish-mouth faucet sinks. The bathroom of the Knight’s room, a play on the Crusader period with embroidered fleur-de-lils and other heraldry on the bedstead, is carved in stone in the style of a medieval chapel.

The Hittite Room

The Hittite suite's bathroom

The Hittite suite’s bathroom, in a converted basement, is watched over by two stone statues, while in the bedroom two large stone carved lions stand as sentinels near the foot of the bed.
The Mansouriya’s other suites, all decorated in keeping with their respective historical period, are the Ottoman, Iznik, Byzantine, Vizier, and the Favorite, as in the favorite concubine of the Vizier.
As if the private bathroom facilities were not ample enough, the hotel has its own spa with a jacuzzi and Turkish hamam inlaid with Iznik tiles. Other facilities include a lounge and library decorated in the Ottoman-era style with painted walls and mother-of-pearl encrusted furniture, and a 24-person dining room featuring a menu of Oriental cuisine and fine wines.

Mansouriya Palace, Bab Qennesrin, Aleppo, Syria: +963 21 3632000
All photos by Paul Cochrane

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